Residents of the Midwest and Northeast braced Monday for the second snow storm in less than a week.
As they waited for ice and snow, many Longboat Key residents and visitors were also waiting — in traffic, that is. That’s because traffic backed up as they hit the beach on President’s Day in mid-70-degree temperatures.
Visit Florida, the state’s agency that promotes tourism, Tweeted this reminder on Feb. 13:
“Snow is on the ground in 49 of the 50 states with only Florida completely snow free!”
For local hotels and resorts, frigid temperatures translate to a flurry of phone calls and emails from northerners in search of sunshine.
“It’s hard to find a room on the island,” said Gail Loefgren, president of the Longboat Key Chamber of Commerce, who said that the chamber gets more calls whenever temperatures drop up north. “People are calling from the North saying that they’re done with winter.”
“It’s definitely given us positive numbers here,” said Matt Angelo, marketing coordinator and reservations manager at the 50-unit Diplomat Beach Resort. “Without a doubt, the colder it is up there and the longer the cold stays, people are going to come and escape it.”
Kamila Nowak, whose company, Coastal Properties and Management, manages La Playa rental condominium said that bookings at the 21-unit resort are up 35% in February compared with the same month last year.
“You can see by the amount of inquiries and emails,” Nowak said. “People are desperately looking for properties available at a much, much higher rate compared to last year.”
Donna Zook, manager at the 40-unit Beachcomber, said that February and March, during which units are typically full, were booked earlier this year, which she attributes to the weather up north.
Property managers report that some guests have had to reschedule their visits after their flights were canceled because of the weather, but other visitors have asked to extend the stay — both because of cancelations and because they didn’t want to return to the cold.
Sandra Rios, director of communications at the Resort at Longboat Key Club, said the resort experienced a few cancelations last weekend because of canceled flight connections at major airport hubs — but it’s also had more people booking future travel from home as they seek a warm weather escape.
“When people get pent up, our website gets more hits,” Rios said. “Even if they’re not making it for right now, they’re booking something they can look forward to in four or six weeks.”
Tourist taxes collected during a given month aren’t due until the following month, so December is the most recent month for which figures are available. (Tourist taxes collected in January can be paid any time during the month of February, for example.)
December totals for both Sarasota and Manatee county portions of Longboat Key suggest that tourism was up slightly on the island in December. (See below.)
Tourist development tax
The latest Tourist Development Tax figures show a slight increase in tourism in December on Longboat Key, with Manatee County collections increasing and Sarasota County collections decreasing.
December 2012 December 2013
Longboat Key (Manatee) $85,247.79 $105,793.67
Longboat Key (Sarasota) $161,722.75 $151,948.49
Totals $246,970.54 $257,742.16
Contact Robin Hartill at [email protected]